Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Forging through the Dark Days

In Michigan these days really are dark. At seven this morning it was literally black as pitch out and I managed to stay huddled in bed until at least eight thirty before the dirty, dusky light crawling in through my un-curtained my window. If only we had a layer of snow to reflect the teeeeeensy bit of light we get before eight.

My Dark Days post this week is about preparing for a fantastic Dark Days Dessert tonight, rather than actually executing it. I know, lame, right?

I do (in honesty) have a great excuse though... I had planned my fantastic Dark Days execution for last night, so I could get it just under the wire with my recapper over at Not Dabbling in Normal. Then, in a fit of madness while at work, I helped my barn manager catch a very stray kitten and managed to get a really nasty bite. My evening dissolved into a whirlwind of phonecalls to the health department; a long drive to the humane society; scrubbing, soaking and rescrubbing the bite wound; trying not to think about rabies (which is unfortunately something we have to worry about in Michigan); and finally a small inner war at the end of the night when husband suggested rather than cooking we go to the local health food store for pizza. When he mentioned he would personally go pick it up and I wouldn't have to do anything, I admit, my resolve dissolved... heh. At least the pizza was made using whole grains and rBST free ingredients. *fail*

Anyway, this is my plan for today....

I battled with motivation all morning (literally from the moment I opened my eyes), thinking about dropping out of the DD even before it started. I realized that's seriously silly though. We eat SOLE foods regularly, and just because I hadn't managed to do a write up on any of the meals we've had so far doesn't mean I should give up. Right?


So I walked into the kitchen and suddenly remembered the adorable Bosc pears that I purchased at our local Ann Arbor farmers' market two days ago. Mmm. Pears. The most readily available local ingredients that we have around our house are definitely baking ingredients, so I figured Hey! Spiced Pear Pies.

Well, unfortunately in the dark days challenge I am trying to stay as local as I can, and spices really aren't all that local to Michigan, so I was left trying to come up with a recipe that would add a zing to the soft mute flavor that is pear.

What do we grow in Michigan that is zingy? Well, not much. We don't grow citrus, that's for sure, and spice beyond the brazen capsaicin of simple dried chili peppers is pretty hard to come by. We have native sumac, which can be used as a lemon substitute, but I'm not quite sure how to process sumac into a usable substance yet. I'll get there, I'm just a little intimidated by the large fuzzy spires on the staghorn bushes in the woods.
Then it struck me - another zingy thing that most people overlook - rose hips! They're totally in season now too, having mellowed just a tad from the recent freezes we've had. I googled a bit and found a spectacular looking recipe for rose hip and pear pie (so it's really "a thing"!) so as soon as I finish here and hit "publish" (and I suppose I should try to forward this on to Jen at Not Dabbling so she gets my lame-o cop-out update for this week) I will pull on my wellies and a couple wool fisherman's sweaters, top myself off with a stocking cap and trudge out into the orchard where the wild rose bushes grow.

I don't want to take too many rose hips from the birds, but I figure I can glean a few pounds without affecting them too drastically. Our orchard is literally brimming with rose bushes... hundreds of them. I'm pretty sure they're all multiflora rosa, so they're the nasty invasive type. I'll try to see this as I'm preventing a small percentage of additional seed-fall, to keep the invasive species at bay. Hah.


  1. Interesting/fun plans for the pears! I just bought some myself at the farmers market on Sunday and didn't want to be lame and just eat them plain. I was wondering what to do with them that would fit a DD meal (I'm on your mid-Atlantic participant list). Don't know where I could find rose hips, but your creativity is inspiring!

  2. Oooh, ooh sumac! I know! You can use the beady seeds just as they are (though they'll stick to your fingers a bit when you harvest them from the cone. You can also brew them into a liquid similar to a lemonade ... think concentrate. The kid and I made some last year, and I may have a blog link somewhere....